The 2015-16 Purdue men's basketball season has 10 games left before the postseason begins. In those 10 games, Purdue played three teams currently in the top 25 a total of four times. On the line is a top 4 conference finish, maybe a piece of a conference title if Iowa and Indiana start to stumble, and a decent seed in the NCAA Tournament.
None of that happens unless Purdue gets Rapheal Davis back.
Yes, I am aware that Ray is playing, but something is not right and the senior leader has not been himself for awhile. Worse yet, he is a virtual ghost offensively when Purdue loses, which is not something a player closing in on 1,000 career points (he has 898) should be. The numbers don't lie, either. Purdue is at its best when he is active and scoring, and struggles when he isn't active and scoring.
Rapheal Davis in Purdue's 4 losses:
3 ppg, 3 of 20 FG, 2 of 10 3FG, 4 of 8 FT, 2.5 RPG, 1.5 APG
In 13 wins (He missed 4 games vs. Lehigh, Pittsburgh, New Mexico, and IUPUI)
10.4 ppg, 45 of 99 FG, 16 of 41 3FG. 29 of 34 FT, 3.6 RPG, 2.2 APG
That is a HUGE difference! He has even had some of his best games in Purdue's biggest wins. He went for 18 against Florida (the game before his injury), 16 against Michigan, and 14 against Vanderbilt. He was at least a threat on the perimeter and could drive to the basket to either score or get to the line (where he was a good shooter).
Last season was much of the same:
Rapheal Davis in Purdue's 13 losses:
7.4 ppg, 42 of 102 FG, 14 of 23 3FG, 7 of 14 FT, 4.0 RPG, 2.1 APG
In Purdue's 21 wins:
12.8 ppg, 80 of 166 FG, 4 of 37 3FG, 96 of 127 FT, 4.6 RPG, 2.9 APG
Some of those numbers are staggering. First of all, Ray sucked from long-range last year until late in the season. He made just 18 three-pointers all year and only two came before the Illinois game on January 21st.
Second, some of his losing numbers are actually buoyed by a big performance in a losing effort. He had 15 at Vanderbilt and Ohio State in losses and 14 at Illinois. For the most part, however, when he didn't score, Purdue lost.
Third, look at the free throw numbers. Ray's best way to score is going to the basket, where he often scores on a high percentage layups, gets an assists, or gets to the line. In 13 losses he barely shot more than one free throw per game, and in 21 victories he was attempting at least 6 free throws per game. This year it is not pronounced, but when Purdue is winning Ray is getting to the line.
So what is wrong with Ray? Many are speculating that his knee, which caused him to miss four games earlier this season, is bothering him. That's possible, but he has had some good games since coming back. He had 14 in the win over Vanderbilt and had 16 while going 6 for 6 from the line against Michigan. The numbers don't lie though. When he is off, Purdue, for the most part, struggles to win. Only against Old Dominion (scoreless) and Penn State (2 points) did Purdue have an easy time while he was doing very little.
In the four losses, however, he is not even a threat to score. He is only taking five shots in those games (hitting less than one) compared to 7.6 attempts in wins. He is also getting to the line more, which is key because that proves to be a detriment by getting other teams in foul trouble.
So what is the solution? How do we get "good" Ray? Well, it begins with his health. If he is having any problems with the knee at all I would have him sit the next two games. Minnesota is awful and we should be able to handle Nebraska at home without him. Since Purdue finally gets an off date midweek next week that gives him two full weeks to get healthy. The stretch after these two is brutal:
That is a stretch of four games in six against currently ranked teams and a tough road game at a good Michigan team. It is the stretch where a high seed can be won and, with help, a Big Ten Conference title can be won. The latter will be difficult, but Purdue definitely controls its destiny toward the former. It needs to find a way to get its senior leader back involved in the offense because his drives to the basket open up better looks on the perimeter and, in turn, free up Hammons and Swanigan inside.
With good Ray D. Purdue can go a long way. With bad Ray D. it will be lucky to survive longer than 40 minutes in March.